|Jun Dae Joo
Jun Dae Joo, Ambassador of the Republic of Korea to Viet Nam, and Salman AlHarbi, Head of the Consular Section of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, spoke to Viet Nam News about the impact of Vietnamese workers in their countries.
How would you describe the labour import in your country in general and the situation of Vietnamese workers in particular?
Jun Dae Joo: The Republic of Korea (RoK) officially implemented the Employment Permit System (EPS) in 2004. Under the EPS framework, foreign human resources are managed in a transparent manner in accordance with government-to-government migrant labour programmes through memoranda of understanding (MoU) signed between the governments.
To date, 15 MoUs have been signed under EPS. Every year, the Foreign Workforce Policy Committee considers the demand of RoK labour market to determine the amount of foreign workers received in the country.
As many as 522,877 foreign workers have been employed under EPS. Vietnamese workers accounted for the highest number of foreign workers of the 15 signing countries with a total of 99,390 people as of July.
The countries sending workers to Korea under the EPS include: Viet Nam, the Philippines, Thailand, Mongolia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, China, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, Cambodia, Nepal, Myanmar, Kyrgyztan, Bangladesh and Timor-Leste.
Salman AlHarbi: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has witnessed a steady growth during the development plans carried out currently, which led to an expansion in the recruitment of foreign labours. According to a report issued by the United Nations Population Division, Saudi Arabia ranked fourth in the world after the United States, Russia and Germany in recruiting foreign labours with approximately 9.1 million migrant labourers, including Vietnamese. Most of the foreign labourers are domestic workers.
In your opinion, how do Vietnamese workers contribute and impact your country's social and economical situation?
Jun Dae Joo: Vietnamese workers are favoured by entrepreneurs, and they account for the highest portion among 15 countries sending labourers to RoK. This is due to the fact that Vietnamese workers are diligent and finish assigned work with high responsibility. Viet Nam and RoK also have many similarities in terms of culture. It's that factor that helps Vietnamese workers quickly adapt to the working environment.
Vietnamese workers have a hard-working character and are helping to relieve the problem of labour shortages in small and medium enterprises.
Salman AlHarbi: All the labours in our country contribute directly or indirectly to the growth of the economy, as well as to social aspects through the intermixture of cultures and civilisations.
Does your government have any policy to protect foreign workers?
Jun Dae Joo: RoK government is applying consistent policies to help foreign workers enjoy working conditions and salaries like those of domestic workers. In addition, to strengthen the protection of foreign workers, RoK government also initiated other policies:
1. Annually direct and check about 3,000 factories and enterprises involved in recruiting foreign workers.
2. Urge business owners to have sound employment practices.
3. Disincentives will be imposed on enterprises violating the law while allocating foreign workers.
4. Provide continuous support services such as consulting or advice to foreign workers, either directly or indirectly.
Salman AlHarbi: The Ministry of Labour of Saudi Arabia has approved the establishment of a new department to protect migrant labourers' rights in Saudi Arabia named the Department for Protection of Migrant Labourers, under the Agency for Labour Affairs within the Ministry of Labour. The new department undertakes various tasks, such as informing labourers of their rights, introducing regulations and requirements and supporting relations between the Ministry of Labour and migrant labourers, all of which serve general interests in Saudi Arabia. This decision has been studied carefully and comprehensively prior to its issuance, taking into account different nationalities who work in Saudi Arabia and the requirements referred to in contracts between Saudi Arabia and other countries. There is also a Royal Decree to protect labourers' rights as following:
– Labourers are allowed to move freely within Saudi Arabia as long as they hold a valid residence permit.
– Labourers are allowed to visit government authorities and other institutes to access services provided to them and their families - such as the issuance of a driving license, purchasing cars, using telephones and other activities - without the requirement to obtain consent from sponsors.
– Sponsors are no longer permitted to keep the passports of migrant labourers or the passports of their family members.
What do Vietnamese workers need to do to prepare to work in your country?
Jun Dae Joo: In order to adapt well and be able to work in RoK, it is important that workers must have some Korean language competency. Besides experience, seniority in the areas that they registered and other relevant experience will be an advantage to foreign workers coming to RoK.
We think that Vietnamese workers also need to think about how they can apply their working experience in RoK after returning to their homeland.
Salman AlHarbi: Labourers should learn specialised skills and learn how to deal with the Saudi society, as well as be fully aware of some important points about Saudi society and lifestyle.
Can you provide some statistics of Vietnamese workers in your country? How many Vietnamese workers are there in your country? What fields are they working in? By how much does the number of workers increase every year?
Jun Dae Joo: Of the 99,390 total Vietnamese workers, about 28,963 are working mainly in the industrial manufacturing sector as of July.
Although Viet Nam accounted for the highest number of foreign workers, RoK stopped receiving new Vietnamese workers in 2013. This is because RoK government applied measures to cope with the high rate of Vietnamese workers overstaying illegally in the country. RoK government has always considered the rate of illegal residence as an important issue when formulating policies related to the EPS programme.
There will be many opportunities for Vietnamese to work in RoK if they do not overstay illegally in the country and return to their homeland after their contracts expire.
Salman AlHarbi: The number of Vietnamese labourers in Saudi Arabia is about 20,000 people and varies a little bit from time to time due to the fact that some labourers return to Viet Nam after their contract ends, but many labourers also come to the Kingdom for new contracts.
The number of labourers increases steadily from 2,000 to 5,000 persons annually. — VNS